Who or what decides that someone has enlightened himself?

It's just about an urge to know the point where/how enlightened one's or their followers approve that 'they are enlightened'. What happens immediately after that?

  • 2
    You don't need anyone's approval! Enlightenment is a direct experience. Commented May 4, 2015 at 16:50
  • Just as an example 'Why we say that gautam buddha was enlightened ?'. It was his direct experience only, not mine. I have info. only.
    – jitin
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 17:00
  • 2
    Listen to this: Monk Radio: The Buddha's Nibbana Commented May 4, 2015 at 17:24
  • 1
    You ask, "what happens immediate after that?", but I think a better question is: what is happening immediately, right now? If enlightenment were conditional on some achievement or happened to some particular person, then it would end, just like a distant mirage in the desert disappears when the sun goes down. Any enlightenment that can end (and, as such, any enlightenment I might 'have') is just as illusory as the mirage; after all, I will surely die. I think this is good motivation for further investigation.
    – Dan Bryant
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 21:37

9 Answers 9


In the Dona Sutta, Dona the brahmin observed the Buddha meditating under a tree and based on his demeanour, Dona thought that this cannot be an ordinary human being.

So, Dona asked the Buddha whether he is a god (deva), a celestial musician (gandhabba), a nature spirit (yakkha) or a human being. The Buddha answered "No" each time. Then when asked, "Then what sort of being are you?", the Buddha replied:

"The fermentations by which I would go
to a deva-state,
or become a gandhabba in the sky,
or go to a yakkha-state & human-state:
    Those have been destroyed by me,
    ruined, their stems removed.
Like a blue lotus, rising up,
unsmeared by water,
unsmeared am I by the world,
and so, brahman,
I'm awake."

So, the Buddha knows by himself that he is awake.

He knows by himself that he is not smeared by the world in the way that others are.

He knows by himself that all fermentations have been destroyed permanently and would no longer arise.

Here is my take on your question:

Imagine a scenario where a bunch of people are soundly asleep and suddenly one of them wakes up.

Now, he looks at the people around him who are still asleep, he knows for sure that he is awake and he knows for sure who else is sleeping and who else is awake.

But for those who are still asleep, could they know who is awake? Could they know what it means to be awake?

No, surely not.


Only you can decide for yourself that you are truly enlightened.

Why: Because enlightenment is overcoming any and all ideals and dogma you impose upon yourself, including the need for enlightenment.

  • Thank you. I wish to read some incidents/examples. In the context of changed actions/way of living/thinking and perception making (Before enlightened vs. Now enlightened).
    – jitin
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 16:28
  • 6
    Hi, welcome to Buddhism.SE Could you include some source material to support your answer? Commented May 4, 2015 at 17:43
  • 1
    I can confirm this. Source: I am enlightened.
    – MickLH
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 15:02

See this article "What Does It Mean To Be Enlightened?" by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi.

In this article it is explained how the Buddha views enlightenment. Its based on a conversation the Buddha had with a Brahmin where the Buddha explains what is meant by a "Buddha".

This is the Buddhas own words:

“What has to be known, that I have known;

What has to be abandoned, that I have abandoned;

What has to be developed, that I have developed;

Therefore, O brahmin, I am a Buddha.”

In the article Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi then takes each step and explains it, what it consists of and how it leads to enlightenment. I must say that this article is brilliantly written by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi.



I wish to read some incidents/examples. In the context of changed actions/way of living/thinking and perception making (Before enlightened vs. Now enlightened)

One theory is that there are Four stages of enlightenment.

The first of these four stage is stream-enterer or stream-winner,

In Buddhism, a Sotāpanna (Pali), Srotāpanna (Sanskrit; Chinese: 入流; pinyin: rùliú, Tibetan: རྒྱན་ཞུགས, Wylie: rgyun zhugs[1]), or "stream-winner"[2] is a person who has eradicated the first three fetters (sanyojanas) of the mind, namely self-view (or identity), clinging to rites and rituals, and skeptical doubt.

To try to understand that, I asked this question: What are examples of identity-view? It's not a great question (it's too long) but some people answered it well. If "abandoning identity-view" is a necessary characteristic of the first stage of enlightenment, you might like to read those answers to see what identity-view is.

Also the comments to this question, Are there any living enlightened people? explain there's a taboo (i.e. it breaks a Vinaya rule) about claiming to be enlightened (especially about claiming to be enlightened when you're not), so beware of that.


You can read about Nibbana and what Enlightment means in this excellent Nibbana Sermon by Venerable Bhikkhu K. Ñāṇananda

There are 33 sermons and they combine deep insight into the Dhamma with academic erudition, being based on copious quotations from the Pāli discourses that alternate with illustrative similes and useful indications for meditation practice.


as an example from the above link on an arahant (one who is enlightened)

Tiṇakaṭṭhasamaṃ lokaṃ,

yadā paññāya passati,

mamattaṃ so asaṃvindaṃ,

'natthi me'ti na socati.


"When one sees with wisdom,

This world as comparable to grass and twigs,

Not finding anything worthwhile holding onto as mine,

One does not grieve, saying: 'O! I have nothing!'"

Th 717, Adhimutta Theragāthā,

All the explanations are in the above link of the sermons of Venerable Bhikkhu K. Ñāṇananda


If there is beauty, there must be ugliness; If there is right, there must be wrong. Wisdom and ignorance are complementary, And illusion and enlightenment cannot be separated. This is an old truth, don't think it was discovered recently. "I want this, I want that" Is nothing but foolishness. I'll tell you a secret - "All things are impermanent!

Ryokan, One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan


In the Palicanon I know two stories concerning this. The Buddha talks about when he himself (not yet judged by others) knew he's got the full awakening, the full wisdom - that was part of the story of his awakening process, and even a couple of self-assuring details are given.
And there are a lot of stories where people admit about themselves, that they are not yet fully awaken, one of the most prominent in the Parinibbans sutta, where Ananda, after 20 or more years of personal attendence with his master, says: my master goes away and I've not yet met my goal...

When it comes to the other problem, that others should recognize/accept etc that one has reached the full enlightenment, then the medium of communication is the "lion's roar" (not specific to the Buddha-dharma, but as well as to the Samana/ascetics movement) I think DN 8 or DN 12 contains the Buddha's "lions-roar" and there is also one about Sariputta's "lions roar". That means, there is no licensing authority but the recognizing depends on whether the "lions-roar" is convincing. Devadatta is an example, where high achievements also can -later in the course of life- revert and a formerly really high ranked samana/bhikkhu can get horribly compromized.
There is no enlightenment-"license" and the above means also that such a "license" given by others cannot be perfect/permanent.

If you ever vet yourself the experience of "whoa, now I know it really" - be it learning piano until mastership, ice-dancing or whatever then you likely shall understand that problem of "knowing-only-yourself" and the problem (is it one?) that to prove this to others is only by doing things masterly and convincingly.

  • I knew I had mastered the C programming language when I had a problem that could only be solved by the Comma Operator, and I thought it through and implemented it. Alas, no one to share my achievement with!
    – user2341
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 22:06

Ultimately one finds out if you are enlightened at the time of death and rebirth. :)


If i claim that i am enlightened will you believe? If if you take my words there will be lingering doubts about me. Is there any way to figure out? yes by becoming one. So that is the reason nobody asks the enlightened being. But if you ask an enlightened person he might say yes. There is one way which is indicative of enlightenment. Brain waves can be monitored through wearable neural sensors. If a person brain emits delta waves which implies low activity level most of the time, he is most likely enlightened or close to enlightenment.

  • I didn't understand what were saying about delta waves, and/or why you said it.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 12:03
  • In East thoughtlessness is a sign of health. Healthier you are, more thoughtless you will be. Enlightenment is the healthiest state. There are wearable sensors like NeuroSky which can be used to figure out brain activity. Enlightened person have very low brain activity (Delta Wave).If a person's brain emits delta wave almost all of the time he is either enlightened or close to being one. Try it out on a monk and yourself. You will see remarkable difference. Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 19:46
  • I am talking about scientific way of figuring out whether a person is enlightened or not. Although answer cant be simple yes or no but probability can be determined. Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 19:51
  • I've seen this which claims that "happiness" resulting from meditation practice is visible on a functional MRI. But I haven't seen news of a test which would associate "enlightenment" with delta waves.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 20:16
  • When you say "thoughtlessness" is "healthy" I guess you're talking about Mushin.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 21:18

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